Preserving Our Observations and Perceptions:
In the lessons “Observing and Perceiving Your World,” we learned about recording our perceptions in a stenographer’s notebook. In this lesson we are going to learn more about permanently storing the information we need.
In her book An Introduction to Christian Writing, 2nd. Edition,* Ethel Herr suggests, “Cultivate the notebook habit. Don’t trust your memory with all the sensory impressions, new ideas, new experiences, and insights you collect.” She then suggests four notebooks for every writer:
- Pocket/purse-sized notebook (at least two)
Carry one with you at all times. Keep others at your bedside, desk, kitchen windowsill… Use them for recording on-the-spot observations and thoughts. If you find yourself without a notebook, grab a napkin, (…) [what paper you can find to use]. Keep up to date by later transferring the tidbits you collect here to their appropriate places in your permanent files.
For North Idaho Christian Writers, the stenographer’s notebook you used for last week’s lesson will be the main notebook for recording these tidbits. If this notebook is too awkward or too big to carry in your pocket or purse, you may want to invest in one or two smaller notebooks to carry with you throughout your day. When you get home, transfer your notes to your main stenographer’s notebook. We will explain how to set up your permanent files later on.
- Personal Journal
A journal, in which you record your feelings and responses to the things that happen in your daily life, is essential. It is a potpourri of moods, reactions to events and people, sensory perceptions, Bible Study notes, prayers—anything that represents how you feel or think. Keeping a journal will do several things for you as a person and make you a more qualified writer:
- It will help you work your way through your problems.
- It will give you a wealth of material for writing projects, though not everything you write in your journal will be appropriate or valuable for other people.
- It will help you grow as a person and it can be a point of release for emotions or thoughts you don’t want to share with others.
- It will enable you to go back and trace God’s goodness in your life.
Note: Nice journal books can be found in most department or variety stores for anyone who wants to invest in them. Otherwise, inexpensive Composition Books can be found in most School Supply Outlets for only a few dollars.
- Idea File or Notebook:
(We will discuss this later.)
- Quote Notebook
This is where you record notes from books you read, sermons you hear, conversation and other quotes you pick up.
Note from Robin: Ethel’s Quote Notebook is a useful tool. However, to simplify the process, I suggest you put short quotes and other tidbits in your stenographer’s notebook and later transfer them to a file in your file box. You can use lined paper (notebook paper or letter size pads of paper) to write these on and place them in your file. Also remember to write down the information about the source from which you obtained the quote and make sure direct quotes are worded accurately and put in quotation marks.
When reading books, I often want to remember several things from the books. Because of this, I use a composition book to record these notes. This composition book is stored on my bookshelf in my office next to my copy of the book I read. If you don’t use the complete composition book, you can add notes from other books in the back as long as you record the titles on the front of your composition book.
If you have a lot of sermon notes for one message you may want to use a composition book for this as well. Otherwise these short notes can be put in your stenographer’s notebook and transferred to a file called “Sermon Notes” in your “Writer’s notebook” file box. (I will explain later on)
- Diary (optional)
A diary is a record of what happens every day. It may be helpful for your personal records.
Purchase a journal book or a composition book. Try to discipline yourself to write something in it every day. It will take a while to form the habit of journaling. If you miss a day or two don’t worry or be too hard on self. Just pick up where you left off, begin a new entry, and press on.
Permanent Files: (From Robin Ulbredtch)
From my experience as a writer, I’ve learned that a writer can collect a great deal of notes, notebooks, papers, files boxes and other types of organizational supplies. It can become an overwhelming problem.
For beginning writers, I recommend they start their filing system by using manila folders and four plastic letter-size (8 ½ x 11) storage boxes with lids. Plastic boxes hold up better than cardboard and can be stacked on top of one another in a closet or corner of a room. Hanging files are optional for three out of four of the boxes. This will help reduce the cost of a filing system. The boxes can be purchased as needed. The four file boxes are labeled in the following way:
- “Portfolio” –This will be your storage box for final drafts, final manuscripts, published works, and copies of the magazines, etc. where your articles or stories were published. You will want to keep at least two copies of each draft, manuscript, and publication showing your piece was published. One copy is for your permanent record and another copy will be needed if and when you put together a portfolio or presentation for a publisher who is interested in your work. I recommend hanging file folders for this box as you don’t want your finished papers to get bent or crushed under other papers.
For this file box, I label my manila folders as follows:
First line: (type of written work, poem, article, story)
Second Line: Title of work; Magazine or book where it was published
Christians Unite; Published in Bonner County Daily Bee
They are filed in alphabetical order by type, then by Title.
- “Works-in-Progress”–This file is for notes and papers related to the projects I have started or plan to start soon. It may be only an outline or a note about something I want to include in this work, but it’s all stored together in a file where I can find it when I am ready to begin the project. These folders can be files like those in the portfolio box except they won’t have a publisher. The label will read something like this:
(Writing Type) Poem
(Title of Work) We Wait with Hope for Jesus
These files can contain notes, previous drafts of your work, photos or whatever you want to keep until the work is complete. If you store photos you may want to invest in hanging folders so the pictures don’t get bent. All of your drafts can be stored in this file, except the final draft and manuscript. These will be transferred to the “Portfolio” file box.
- “Writer’s Notebook”—This is where I keep all my notes, observations, quotes, and information about writing and topics I may want to write about. These files are named according to the Topic of the information stored in them and are put in alphabetical order. This box is where you will store your observations and notes—whatever information you need to store.
Some examples of folder names would be:
Sermon Notes: Fruit of the Spirit
Sermon Notes: Gift of the Holy Spirit
Prophecies: Regarding the last days
About the Author (You)
Ideas: for Devotionals
Ideas: for Poems
Ideas: for Characters
Ideas: for Stories
Words “Do Not Use” List
- “Writer’s Resources”—This should store information where the writer can go for help or information he/she needs or wants. The files should be put in alphabetical order. Some files might be labeled:
Bonner Gospel Mission
New Life Church
American Christian Writers
Christian Writer’s Guild
International Christian Writers
Helping Hands and Healing Hearts
Gospel Publishing House
Christian Writer’s Market Guide
Daily Bread Ministries
Christian Book Distributors
These files should contain contact information, benefits of the organization, sample newsletters and magazines, writer’s guidelines, contest information, etc. This file will differ depending on what you write and the places you go for information.
As you continue your writing career or hobby, you will find your storage boxes filling up. When the boxes get too full to life around, you should consider purchasing a metal 4-drawer filing cabinet. With this cabinet you can pull out one drawer at a time and not have to move multiple filing boxes around. A good filing cabinet can be expensive. This is why I suggest waiting until you are sure you are going to continue your writing pursuit and find out if this filing system will work for you before investing a large amount of money.
Note: Idea Files
An idea file can be created by using a regular shoebox or cardboard box. You can store newspaper clippings, magazine articles and other items that will help you find ideas. However, I’ve found that most of this storage of stuff seems to rarely or never get used. Therefore, if I find a good idea from a publication or observation, I store it in my writer’s notebook file box for future reference. Therefore I don’t have a bunch of added papers floating around that will never be used.
If you have any questions or comments about this lesson, please call me or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org –Robin Ulbredtch
[i] Herr, Ethel (1983, 99) An Introduction to Christian Writing, 2 Ed., Tyndale House; Nashville, TN: ACW Press: Write Now Publications, p. 34.